Paul Merson says Liverpool must beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday if they want to have any chance of securing the top four in the Premier League.
Merson believes that this is a far bigger game for Liverpool than Arsenal because the only real path for the Gunners is in the Champions League by winning the Europa League.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are four points ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League table, but with a five-point deficit to make up for fourth-placed Chelsea, they can’t afford to lose any more.
‘Big game for Liverpool’
“It’s a huge game for Jurgen Klopp and his side in next season’s Champions League football race.
“On the other hand, I don’t think it’s such a big game for Arsenal. They play Slavia Prague next week in the Europa League and it’s hard to see that they have much interest in the game against Liverpool at all.
“I would expect at least five players to play next Thursday not to play in this game.
‘Arsenal eggs in one basket’
“All of Arsenal’s eggs are now in one basket. There is no point in beating Liverpool and then getting a win from Slavia Prague. It’s not worth it at all.
“The top four are out the window in the league. There are too many teams above them, even if they ran a little.
“But after the quarter-final draw they have a fantastic chance to do something in the Europa League.”
‘The time is right for Liverpool’
“That’s when you start talking about the weather. You watch the rush and think Arsenal away is a tough game for Liverpool, but suddenly the game intensifies and Arsenal has Slavia Prague in the Europa League.
“I can’t get into the top four. It’s not becoming the easiest game in the world for Liverpool, but there are definitely other games that would be harder.
“It’s all about time. It’s a good time for Liverpool to face Arsenal, because, frankly, Slavia Prague is a bigger game for Arsenal.
‘Reds need Champions League’
“It’s hard when players have been around the world and you have to make them fall to the ground by running right away in the Premier League.
“It could go to Arsenal’s advantage, although the focus is on the Europa League. They have time to bring the players back, recharge their batteries after an exhausting international schedule and prepare them for next Thursday.
“They don’t really have to rush them all to a game on Saturday night, like Liverpool have to.
“Liverpool have to win this game. They have to get football in the Champions League for next season.
“People tell me they don’t, but of course they do. It’s Liverpool.
“I would say Anfield and Celtic Park are the best two atmospheres on European nights in all of Europe.
“Europe wants Liverpool just for that reason.”
‘Defeat would make the gap too wide’
“If they want to have any chances, Jurgen Klopp’s team has to win at the Emirates.
“I expect Chelsea to win on Saturday for lunch when they play against West Brom at Stamford Bridge.
“If Liverpool don’t win then, in my opinion, the gap will be too big. It could be up to eight points wide, with the remaining eight games.
“However, if Liverpool can beat Arsenal, it will be a massive win for them. Suddenly, one of their tougher games disappears and Chelsea had one of their easier games until we reached the crucial part of the season.”